[Solved] What is water stress? How and why does it differ regionally in India?(UPSC GS-1 Mains 2019)

Water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use. Water stress causes deterioration of freshwater resources in terms of quantity (aquifer over-exploitation, dry rivers, etc.) and quality

 (eutrophication, organic matter pollution, saline  intrusion, etc.)

 •India placed thirteenth among the world’s 17 ‘extremely water-stressed’ countries, according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas released by the World Resources

 Institute (WRI).

 •Chandigarh was the most water-stressed, followed by Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

 Regional differences in water stress in India

 •Some regions have been hit harder by the change in rainfall patterns. Parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar,

 Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, for instance, have seen a significant shortfall in rainfall over the last decade compared to historical averages. Even in regions, such as Uttarakhand, where average rainfall has increased— this could be driven by more extreme rainfall over short spans of time, the type of rains that cause floods.

 •There are harrowing conditions of water scarcity in peninsular India. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Gujarat are in a

 particularly bad way, with northern Karnataka and

 Maharashtra not receiving adequate rainfall for three or four consecutive years.

 •The entire country is vulnerable to ‘vegetation drought’; regions with low soil moisture. The river basins of Mahi, Sabarmati, Krishna, Tapi and Cauvery are particularly susceptible due to low levels of soil moisture.

 •It is extraordinary that Kerala should be in the grip of a water crisis in precisely the regions that were

 devastated by last year’s floods. A combination of high temperatures and water scarcity has put crops, such as cardamom, rubber and tea under stress, with pest attack risks on the rise.

 •According to the NITI Aayog report, 21 cities, including New Delhi, Bangaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad, are

 set to run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting an estimated 100 million people.

 •It warned that groundwater resources, which constitute 40 percent of India’s water supply, were being depleted at unsustainable rates. Excessive groundwater extraction affects not just the quantity but also the quality of water.

 Reasons of water stress at regional level in India

 •The gap between supply and demand will likely widen due to climate change and drought-like situations, drying of Himalayan springs that caused recent Shimla water crisis and uncontrolled groundwater extraction.

 •Exacerbating these are set of policies which encourage water wastage, deepening the water crisis that threatens the livelihoods and lives of millions in rural India.

 Example: Subsidised electricity for farming.

 •This growing demand for water is almost entirely driven by farmers. In India, more than 80% of water demand is used for farming, and agricultural water consumption is expected to stay at these levels even in 2050.

 •India’s reliance on water for farming is partly selfinflicted. For instance, the government’s minimum

 support price scheme incentivizes the production of water-intensive crops, such as rice and sugarcane, even in areas not suitable for these crops’ production.

 •Micro-irrigation practices, such as the use of drips and sprinklers, are not picking up at the desired pace.

 Economic Survey 2015-16 observes: “The key bottlenecks in the adoption of this technology are the high initial cost of purchase and the skill required for maintenance.” •Issues relating to coordination have further complicated water issues. Traditionally, different aspects of water have been managed in isolation by different ministries.

 This has now changed with the newly-formed Jal Shakti ministry, which has subsumed several different water-related departments.

 Regional differences in water stress in India:

 • Some regions have been hit harder by the change in rainfall patterns. Parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, for instance, have seen a significant shortfall in rainfall over the last decade compared to historical averages. Even in regions, such as Uttarakhand, where average rainfall has increased—this could be driven by more extreme rainfall over short spans of time, the type of rains that cause floods.

 • There are harrowing conditions of water scarcity in peninsular India. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Gujarat are in a particularly bad way, with northern Karnataka and Maharashtra not receiving adequate rainfall for three or four consecutive years.

 • The entire country is vulnerable to ‘vegetation drought’; regions with low soil moisture such as the river basins of Mahi, Sabarmati, Krishna, Tapi and Cauvery are particularly susceptible due to low levels of soil moisture.

 • It is extraordinary that Kerala should be in the grip of a water crisis in precisely the regions that were devastated by last year’s floods. A combination of high temperatures and water scarcity has put crops such as cardamom, rubber and tea under stress, with pest attack risks on the rise.

 • According to the NITI Aayog report, 21 cities, including New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad, are set to run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting an estimated 100 million people.

 • It warned that groundwater resources, which constitute 40 percent of India’s water supply, were being depleted at unsustainable rates.

 • Excessive groundwater extraction affects not just the quantity but also the quality of water.

 Reasons of water stress at regional level in India: • The gap between supply and demand will likely widen due to climate change and drought-like situations, drying of Himalayan springs that caused recent Shimla water crisis and uncontrolled groundwater extraction.

 • Exacerbating these set of policies which encourage water wastage, deepening the water crisis that threatens the livelihoods and lives of millions in rural India.

 • This growing demand for water is almost entirely driven by farmers. In India more than 80% of water demand is used for farming, and agricultural water consumption is expected to stay at these levels even in 2050.

 • India’s reliance on water for farming is partly self-inflicted. For instance, the government’s minimum support price scheme incentivizes the production of water-intensive crops, such as rice and sugar cane, even in areas not suitable for these crops’ production.

 • For instance, the Punjab government is offering cash transfers to farmers for every unit of electricity they save to wean them away from pumping more water.

 This uneven distribution of water crisis can be attributed to the following reasons:

Geographical factors

 India has diverse physiography, due to which different regions receive varying degrees of rainfall. For example, winter monsoon along the eastern coast and summer monsoon in northern India.

 Interior of southern India lies in the rain shadow zone and most of Rajasthan and northern Gujarat have arid climate.

 Also, the arid and semi-arid areas of north western India and central India are naturally occurring water stressed areas.

 Climatic factors

 Changing climate has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of floods as well as droughts.

 Erratic monsoon is causing delayed and infrequent rainfall in different parts of India.

 Agricultural practices

  • In India, agriculture is not practised according to the agro-climatic zone. Groundwater is used to cultivate water intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane in rain deficit states like Punjab and Maharashtra respectively.
  • State procurement policy and subsidised electricity in Punjab makes it profitable for farmers to produce rice. Similarly, farmers in Maharashtra cultivate sugarcane because they are assured of marketing.
  • Moreover, flood irrigation is the most common form of irrigation in India which leads to a lot of water loss.
  • All these have led to excessive groundwater extraction and have made India virtual exporter of water.

 Human factors

  • Rapid urbanization has led to the concentration of population in and around major cities which usually happen to be located in the rainfall deficient regions (like Delhi-NCR).
  • The situation is aggravated by encroachment, contamination and consequent destruction of water bodies which otherwise help recharge the underground aquifers.
  • Above all, there is a lack of awareness about water economy which demands judicious use of water.

 Conclusion: Therefore, power subsidies can be gradually withdrawn and instead drip and sprinkler irrigation subsidised. This should be accompanied by a shift away from paddy and sugarcane in rainfed regions, with subsidies and incentives being linked to such choices. Telangana has shown the way in furthering micro-irrigation through Mission Kakatiya, which entails the revival of over 40,000 tanks in the State.

An immediate as well as medium-term policy response is called for. The first priority is to stave off a drinking water crisis by rationing the use of water for irrigation purposes. We will have to apply a good mix of centralized storage (in the form of conventional large reservoirs and large inter basin water transfer programs) and decentralized and distributed storage systems in farmers’ fields and villages.

For latest Articles [Paper wise GS 1-4] and Solved papers join us @ https://t.me/UPSCexamNotes1

For solved

UPSC ESSAYS click here

GS Paper 1 click here


Gs Paper 2 click here

Gs paper 3 click here

GS paper 4 click here

Sociology click here

Entertainment click here

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: